Monday, August 16, 2010

In Memoriam


My first Bible was a small, gilt-edged King James Version (KJV) with a white "imitation leather" cover. It was given to me in June, 1957, a Baptismal gift from my godparents. This was before my godfather got religion, left his wife and went to live in a commune in Texas. So I am told. I have never known my godparents except by name. I still have the Bible, barely used, in its original box. The cover is yellow with age. I keep it as a memento of what was, arguably, the most important event of my life.

My second Bible was a  Revised Standard Version (RSV) in a black bonded leather cover with gold lettering on the spine that says "Helps." This is the Bible I used in Confirmation classes. I still have this one, too. It is falling apart. (It looks a lot like the Bible in the picture above. Said picture was found at this website). The RSV is the Bible version that I heard read in church when I was young. It was based on better textual evidence than the KJV but maintained much of the earlier version's non-standard English usage. The RSV also kept the "thees" and "thous" of Jacobean English in its poetic passages. When I hear the RSV read, it sounds like the Bible to me.

In 1966 the American Bible Society published a paperback new testament in "Today's English Version" (TEV). The cover sported a newsprint design. This was my third Bible. I have at least one dog-eared copy of it around. In those days before Bible translators concerned themselves with gender in language, the New Testament was titled "Good News for Modern Man."  A decade later the entire "Good News Bible" (the abbreviation GNB has replaced TEV) was published in a gold hardcover edition.  Read aloud, the GNB does not sound like the Bible. It sounds like plain, written English, like a novel or a newspaper. This is a good thing.

Although it has gotten a bit long in the tooth, and even though I rarely use it anymore, I admire the Good News Bible.

Until this week, I did not know the name of Robert Bratcher, the editor who oversaw the translation of the GNB. In the August 10 edition of Christian Century magazine, I read an article, pulled from the Associated Baptist Press, reporting Bratcher's death, at age 90, on July 10.

Bratcher was, apparently, something of a controversialist. A paragraph from the Christian Century article:

"Brachter drew the ire of Southern Baptist fundamentalists in 1981 over his critical remarks at a seminar in Dallas. 'Only willful ignorance or intellectual dishonesty can account for the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible,' Bratcher said. 'No truth-loving, God-respecting, Christ-honoring believer should be guilty of such heresy. To invest the Bible with the qualities of inerrancy and infallibility is to idolatrize it, to transform it into a false god.'"

Bratcher was not pulling any punches. The Bible Researcher website includes a fuller verson of Bratcher's words, which ends with a particularly Lutheran sounding statement. "The locus of scriptural authority is not the words themselves. It is Jesus Christ as THE Word of God who is the authority for us to be and to do."

Though I do not think I would call it "heresy," I agree with Robert Bratcher that a doctrine of biblical inerrancy is intellectually untenable. Rest eternal grant him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Dear Godparents, if you are reading this, thank you for the Bible. It means more to me than you can know. Even though you were largely absentee godparents, it's okay. I think I turned out all right. I pray that you have both known God's grace in your life.

God bless.


1 comment:

  1. Blessings dear Godson . . .

    [your adopted Godmother].